When you tune into a stream from Southern California’s Super Arcade, you’re most likely watching the work of Armando “ComMando” Gonzalez. A longtime community member from the Southern California Inland Empire, Gonzalez has helped promote and stream every game collected under the “FGC” banner, either through his work with Level|Up or his own IE Battlegrounds imprint.
Although he prefers to stay out of the spotlight, Commando has slowly become a prominent figure in strengthening the SoCal scene. I recently caught up with Gonzalez to discuss his history in fighting games, the life of a streamer, and his thoughts on the current generation of games and players.
Paul Dziuba: Most people these days probably know you from your work on IE BattleGrounds and the Level|Up streams, but you’ve been in Southern California playing fighting games for a long time. How did you start?
Armando Gonzalez: Gotta say when Street Fighter II came out. I remember I seen a Street Fighter 1 machine back then when it was only two buttons, and I saw that at one of the arcades in El Monte. I don’t even know what year this was. After that I saw my first SF2 machine at a donut shop, which is also in El Monte. And I walked in there, and on the demo I saw Blanka vs. Dhalsim on Dhalsim’s stage, and I go “What the fuck is this? This guys stretching his arms like all the way across the screen. Yo this guy is cool, lemme try it.” So I play with Dhalsim, I got beat by the first Chun-Li character. I don’t know what year this was, I’m really bad with dates, but that’s like my first experience with the game.
PD: Your handle for a long time was TemjinAlpha, where did that come from?
AG: Back then I was into Street Fighter Alpha, and when Alpha 2 came out I was really into Alpha 2 … as well as Virtual On when Virtual On had come out. And there was a mech there I used to use, it was the VR-Temjin. So once the dial-up thing kicked in and everybody had handles I never used to post a lot. That’s when I found out about SRK a little later after that, and Tekken Zaibatsu also. And I’d go “Well I need a user name. Fuggit, I love Alpha and I love the Virtual On series and my main character was Temjin, so TemjinAlpha.”
PD: Just kinda mashed them together.
PD: You started to appear again a couple years ago when you were helping Aris do Electric Wind God Fridays; where did the “ComMando” come from? Was that him or was that you?
AG: No, actually, you can thank Chet for this, Chet Chetty, cause one day we were streaming and a lot of the Tekken guys were first barely beginning to know who I was: “Mexican dude streaming, blah blah blah, he’s helping us out.” “Cool.” And Aris told Chet “His name’s Mando” and he [Chet] goes “Mando, that sounds a lot like Commando.” Poof, it stuck after that.
PD: How did you end up getting involved with Electric Wind God Fridays?
AG: Before that I was already streaming out in the Inland Empire, in Rancho, I was just TOing, ’cause I like to TO. People don’t know I would prefer to TO [rather] than stream, because I love yelling at people and telling them to get to their stations; I like to get shit done. I believe this was right when Watson barely started to come in to Super Arcade and Level|Up had just started to come in here, and the Tekken guys were in here. You know the Tekken community is always hype when it comes to their game. There’s not a big number of them, but they’re very enthusiastic about the game and they’re very verbal people, and I’ve been a Tekken player. I go to Aris: “I want to try to help the Tekken community because I see when Level|Up does their stuff it’s always Street Fighter, Marvel. You don’t really see Tekken and I like Tekken.”
I like all the games, I have a passion for all the games. Any people that are willing to be competitive in a game and just try to beat down your opponent and get them the hell off the station. I like that, I like the competition.
So I said “Hey man, let’s try to do something here. I stream, let’s try to get a stream together.” The next week or so, I think Aris talked to Watson and Watson goes yeah that’s fine. Poof — Electric Wind God Fridays was born.
PD: How did you originally get into streaming?
AG: Basically, I found out [about streaming] on a forum that had VLC media player and some stuff on there in regards to streaming, right? And it was before xSplit, when it was a different program. So, originally when I started streaming was right after Level|Up started doing Wednesday Night Fights in the garage. So I go “Hey, this is a good tool to use to bring more attention to the area that I live in,” which is like San Bernardino, Inland Empire area. So when Street Fighter IV came out we started hosting tournaments, I started doing the streaming thing because I just wanted to give those guys more exposure, wanted for more people to watch the players that were in this area because there was a lot of them that couldn’t make it to Wednesday Night Fights or go to any other locations. That’s the original reason why I got into streaming.
PD: Where were you guys hosting events there?
AG: We were hosting at a little place called Shuffle and Cut, that’s where we started. It was a trading card game place; it had like Magic cards and Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments and all this stuff. I found out on a post on SRK that they were having this gathering out here, they were barely starting it. I think it was called Saturday Night Fights, and this is before Wednesday Night Fights was called Wednesday Night Fights, right? So I heard about it on a SRK thread that it was somewhere in this area, but I couldn’t always make it to Orange County so we started going to the Shuffle and Cut place.
Then from there people would show up to casuals but nobody actually stepped up to do tournaments and everyone wanted play in tournament, so I started running tournaments. And we had like Online Tony, Hugo101, FilipinoMan, before he was known … Rynge was coming there. Like a lot of the people you see nowadays, they used to go to these tournaments. We used to have a pretty big turnout, like 40 to 50 people every month. So that’s kinda how the whole Shuffle and Cut thing came about; I saw it on the SRK thread and then I just showed up and they wanted tournaments so I said “I’ll just turn into a TO and let’s do it.”
PD: About how many hours a week are you involved working for or with the fighting game scene right now?
AG: [laughs] It’s like seven days a week, dude, it doesn’t stop. I dunno, it’s weird, I can leave all this right now, and just go back to IT because I’ve been tech support for, damn, I think over 17 years now. So I’ve been doing it a long time. And I can always go back to that, but something about this just keeps me here, you know? The not getting fuckin’ paid [slaps hands], and not making money [slaps hands], and busting my ass 17 hours a day, and comin’ and streamin’ all this stuff. I dunno, dude.
PD: About not getting paid, how much do you think you get paid for streaming in a given week?
AG: [laughs] Yeah, let’s skip this, I don’t want to embarrass myself here.
PD: Is it enough to put a roof over your head?
AG: Fuck no dude, that shit couldn’t put a fuckin’ roof over your dog’s fucking head, if you had him out in the backyard or something. You’d have to stick him in like your old beat down car that’s parked in the driveway for like 10 years.
PD: You did recently get your subscription button from Twitch, have you noticed people subscribing to the channel?
AG: We just got the button a week and a half ago, which took a really long time because I already had partnership with Twitch since … two Evos ago? But the thing was, it was already activated. There was a lot of issues with the people that helped me get it, and for like a year and a half straight I never got paid from them. So we’re still working on it, trying to figure out how that’s all gonna work out. I met one of the guys that works there and he helped me straighten everything out. It took a long ass time, but it’s getting there.
PD: Are you starting to see money from the subscriptions, or not yet?
AG: I mean, we already picked up some subscribers. I have other stuff with other TOs that I do, that doesn’t give me — you know I’m here for Wednesday Night Fights and The Runback, so by the time Friday, Saturday and Sunday rolls around I’m like burnt out. We’re here three time a week streaming for one party. So, right now consistency in IEBattleGrounds isn’t as, uh, it’s not as solid as I would like it to be, because I’m already helping out other communities. So it doesn’t give me a lot of time to develop and work on what IEBattleGrounds is, like the brand and all that stuff. But I’m working on it: We still have our Versus Mayhems, our Rusty Parries, we started to do the Marvel 2 stuff.
Like I said, I’m a big fan of all the games, and I’m a fan of communities that actually want to come out and support their games. Cause you see, there’s a lot of people that just talk and never actually come out to support. The good thing about being here is I get to meet a lot of people; I don’t just do the Capcom stuff or the Namco stuff, I’m here with the airdasher guys, I’m here with the Gundam guys, I’m here with like everybody. So you get to talk to them and just try to help out everybody.
PD: Talking about different communities, coming from what people would call the old school days, what’s one of the biggest differences you see from the community then to the community now?
AG: There’s a lot of differences. Right now, the whole of what everybody calls the FGC now, it’s in a transition state. Because compared to what it was before, to now, to where it’s going, we’re like stuck in-between. I don’t know, I just feel we’re in a transition period, but the difference between back then and now is you have a lot more social networking so people are online more, they have access to a lot more stuff. And I guess they’re friendlier?
Because you know, back then, it was only arcade machines and if you wanna play you have to go to a liquor store, donut shop, laundromat, arcade to go play. So you would walk in, you would see a cabinet that you want to play—Street Fighter II, Championship Edition, Hyper Fighting, whatever the case was—you put your quarter up, you play your game. If you win you stay, if you lose you get off, but people didn’t talk to each other. It was like one of those things. If you threw somebody and the other fool got mad at you, you gotta scrap.: “Let’s go. What you want, you wanna say something cause I threw you?” It got better when everybody figured out Zangief’s piledriver though, that was the fuckin best! [makes piledriver noise] “WHAT? HALF MY SHIT?” [scuffling noises] Get ruffled up outside of the fuckin’, uh, 7-11 and shit. That’s like a big difference.[pullquote align=”right”]It feels like we have that territorial thing, but there has to be a middle ground where everybody comes together to try to push for what people want out of this.[/pullquote]
Back then, people didn’t really communicate because it was more territorial, you could say. Where if I left my city and went somewhere else and walked into a 7-11 or whatever the case was, and I walked in there and they’d be like, “What are you doing here? No, we gotta beat this fool down, he can’t come in here and roll us up!” You know, that’s how it was. I got into a lot of fights, it happens. And as opposed to now, when we got a place like Super Arcade? There’s not very many places like Super Arcade, where we have on Fridays our console casuals, and we always get new people come in here. They just get in and play: “Oh what’s your Facebook? What’s your Twitter, can you add me? Let’s be buddies. Tell me how many frames this is.” You know, a BIG difference. So that’s like, the social aspect of it has changed a lot from then to now. That’s like one of the main differences.
PD: Do you feel like social media has improved the way people look at fighting games and communicate in the scene?
AG: I think social media needs to improve from where it’s at right now. It’s like weird, I don’t know how to comment on this in the right way. We have a lot of social media that likes to put out the proper information out there, like, okay, they’re gonna have this or that or whatever tournament, but I don’t see…it doesn’t feel like social media is helping us advance to where this needs to go.
Like everybody is “Oh Esports this, Esports that,” and they want that kind of money. The last two days I’ve seen people on Twitter bitching because their game doesn’t get 100 people at majors so they want to quit. You know who I’m talking about; I ain’t gonna say no names, but, oh man don’t even get me started on that. And right now there’s a lot of negativity being highlighted in a lot of places like one person said something and they jump [all] over it because of course they wanna get views on their page and whatever. It feels like we have that territorial thing, but there has to be a middle ground where everybody comes together to try to push for what people want out of this.
PD: You feel like territoriality has moved from offline to online, basically?
AG: Yeah, it’s kinda the same thing. I, it’s weird. I dunno man, to me if I had it my way I wish these companies still made arcade machines, and everybody would go into the arcade and talk their mess and then see what’s up, y’know? But that’s just me, I’m old like that. [laughs]
PD: Now that you’ve been streaming a while and you’ve been working with Level|Up, you’ve gotten the chance to go around the country a little bit and stream for Texas Showdown, Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament in Chicago. Did you actually get to see any of the cities, or are you just working the whole time?
AG: I’m just working the whole time. Texas was a trip. Yeah, Texas was the first one, and that was pretty rough man. We went out there and I had to do it solo: camera man, streamer, equipment. Oh — shoutouts to the Texas crew, Javi, Jan everybody else out there, they helped me out a bit. I’m not the friendliest of guys ever, I’m usually quiet, I like to get things done and then have fun later. That’s the way I am.
PD: How much sleep did you get in Texas?
AG: [laughs] Oh shit. All the time we were there? 10 hours? Maybe? I think? It’s very weird, because some stuff happened where we had to move equipment and we ran a little late. It happens. But me, I just get shit done and then go do whatever else you gotta do.
PD: With all the time you’re putting into streaming, helping TO, helping run Super Arcade, do you actually get to play anymore?
AG: No, I don’t, that’s the sad part.
PD: Do you miss it a lot?
AG: I do miss it, because I was the guy that would never say anything. I’d just sit down, beat your ass and you’d get off and you wouldn’t say anything. Because if you did, stuff happens. People are walking outside for a show afterwords. That’s the way I was.
All my talking was in the gameplay; I wasn’t a cocky guy or anything, I just like, I knew where my skills were then. I was a lot better back then than I am now. Now, it’s like I have too many things to concentrate on aside from fighting games. It’s still within the community, of course, but I don’t have time to play anymore. My right hand’s busted, so if I actually want to play tournament I have to like sit there for like an hour so I’m adjusted to my hands, because my hands don’t move as fast as my mind does.
PD: What happened to your hand?
AG: Oh, there was a wall involved, I missed, BAM. It still works, it’s just if I have to play fighting games I do have to really warm up. That’s why people see me get blown up when I go play. [sighs] But boy, you catch me on a day when I’m practicing and you wanna talk something, oh man, you ask a couple of these players, some of these top players know what’s up.
PD: So, if you actually did have some time, what would you be playing right now?
AG: Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter IV, those are probably like the main ones. I’ve always been a fan of the Marvel series, since X-Men: Children of the Atom, but when Marvel Super Heroes came out that was like, I was all over that game. After Marvel Super Heroes came out and they had a way better air combo system, I was just hooked; every time a new one came out I always played it. Street Fighter is like, I can always play Street Fighter because I’ve been playing Street Fighter since part two. Fireball, uppercut, I know how all that shit works, it’s just adjusting to the mechanics of the newer game.
PD: What do you think about competitive Marvel 3 at this point?
AG: You know I see this a lot, because I stream it at least once a week at The Runback. I think…okay, first of all they took off the DLC, you can’t get it no more, which is fine. People made their jokes “Where’s Marvel?” now, right, as opposed to “When’s Marvel?” But we’ve only discovered, I feel like we’ve only discovered like 40 percent of what’s in the game. There’s still a lot.
Personally, when I play Marvel I play on the fly. I don’t go by some combos I see on YouTube, so sometimes people be like “What the hell’s he doin’?” and they’ll be like “Holy shit that works, I can’t believe it!” because I’m always trying to think outside the box in terms of gameplay. And when I see these guys play, they’re stuck; they’ve plateaued. Because they’re doing the same combos, even when they get stuck in the same situations that you always see with lightning loops and stuff like that.
By now, a lot of the people should already know, because they see zoop-zoops all the fucking time, they should know how to block it a little bit better. Which, you know, if you put Cloud805 playing against a Zero player, [Cloud’s] character just died, his incoming is about to hit the screen, and the Zero player activates Sougenmu and he tries to go for lightning loop? He knows how to block it. One, because he knows how to play the character. Two, because he puts people in the situation and he’s been in those situations.
And there’s a lot of other players that just go “Eff Zero, I hate this character,” or “Vergil’s stupid,” and they don’t take the time to understand how all those mechanics work so they always get hit by them. They’ll go to YouTube, look at a combo/match and go “Oh I’m gonna try that,” and then they just stay with that combo. They don’t progress. They only progress when they see somebody else doing it, instead of them trying to progress whatever they have themselves.
PD: There has always been people in the community that talk about cheap stuff and obviously Zero and Vergil fall into that category. Do you feel like moving from arcade to console has changed how people approach those characters/movesets?
AG: Yeah, because you have access at home, so you can sit there all your free time and practice the game. Now it’s like you have options in training mode where you can set the character to do specific combos and setups, so you can practice blocking, et cetera, et cetera. You didn’t have that before. So before it’s like you have to learn it on the spot. Oh shit, you get hit by a cross-up; “WHAT IS THIS CROSS-UP? I’VE NEVER SEEN THIS IN STREET FIGHTER 2!” “WHAT THE HELL, IS THIS UNBLOCKABLE?”[pullquote]They’ll go to YouTube, look at a combo/match and go “Oh I’m gonna try that,” and then they just stay with that combo. They don’t progress. They only progress when they see somebody else doing it, instead of them trying to progress whatever they have themselves.[/pullquote]
The console market, it’s good because you get more content, more players actually play. But it’s only online, there is no going to your local arcade, or your local gathering, and being there with the homies, and figure out new stuff and talk shit and get drunk or whatever it is you do, you know. It’s different. It’s like going to the club and staying at home sitting on the couch watching Seinfeld. It’s two different things. That’s how big the difference is, I feel. Like if you’re at home playing console, you online warriors, as opposed to the people that come here and play with a group of people, and have access to more games and still be competitive … it’s like night and day, it’s a big difference.
PD: So you feel like console/online play is just not the full experience?
AG: Oh hell no. If you’ve seen the Battlefield videos, where there’s like little-ass eight-year-old kids using all this foul language, I’m like, “What the hell is going on?” You go to an arcade you can’t say that shit because you’re playing the guys right there next to you. Big difference. You say some smart shit you’re getting the backhand POW, you learn your place.
PD: I just wanted to ask you one last question about streaming. There’s a lot of people who, as we move toward–what a lot of people want to see–this Esports model, you’ve seen a lot more streamers in the last few years. How do you feel about all these people jumping on streaming? Do you think it’s a good thing to put that much time and money in?
AG: I think streaming is a new dynamic to our community. Obviously for League of Legends, all that Esports stuff, it’s worked out great because you no longer have to sit at a TV to check what’s on TV: go to a channel and see what programming is on. With our community now and this Twitch platform, it gives us the ability to stream whatever it is that is we’re doing and anybody at whatever time you’re doing it can actually hop on and watch it live.
So it’s good that more and more people are coming out and streaming because–I’m kind of sad to say–that that’s one of the main reasons that brings out the players at a tournament. If there’s no stream they don’t really want to go, they want to be streamed. But it also helps out the community, because people see “Oh, there’s a tournament there, I didn’t know.”
There’s people who don’t go to Shoryuken, there’s people who don’t go to EventHubs. They just go to Twitch, or whatever, and go through the game and see who’s streaming at the time. I mean, it’s good, it brings out more awareness but sometimes you think there’s too many of them at one time; say, like, when there’s a major going on, and everybody’s watching the major and this guy is streaming BlazBlue and only getting like four people.
But I mean that’s the grind, you gotta keep on doing what you’re doing. If you do it because you love what you’re doing, and you’re doing it for the progression of the community, it works out. It’s just a grind. Because, first of all, streamers don’t get paid shit, they don’t make that kind of money. I mean, I can’t go pay my Bugatti note with streaming, you know? Second of all, it’s a lot of work. All the cables and everything, and setting up consoles and trying to coordinate with TOs, bracket-runners and all that. I mean, it could be a lot of work. To me, it’s just like I do it anyways, let’s go I love streaming, I love watching matches. It’s perfect for me because I get to see all the matches, I’m right there. But if you’re gonna start off streaming, and you actually do it for the right reasons, just do it, man. There’s no reason not to.
But I will say, we need some shit like WWE. We’re like at WWF, where it was all territories and there was AWAs, and all this shit was going on. We need to have like a WWE where Vince went and bought out everybody BOOM took over, and it’s like one channel dude, everybody’s on there: Spooky, Level|Up, IEBattleGrounds, everybody. I think that would be dope. Can you imagine that, if there was one channel where you could go,and any majors or whatever was streamed just on that channel to bring all the communities in? That would be so dope, I think that would be dope.[hr]
Phew! Now that you’ve read the interview, feel free to drop us a line in the comments with your thoughts.